The wonders of travel never cease for globetrotting families, couples or the lone adventurer. Although many vacations run smoothly, sometimes there are “bumps” along the way. The best way to avoid surprise turbulence is to be prepared. Here are some useful consumer protection tips the AMA offers to help travellers get on their way.
Planning Your Adventure1
Do your homework. You can research your destination using resources in person, online and in print. However, there are benefits to using travel agents. For instance, our AMA travel counselors are here to help you through the entire process before, during and after your trip.
Five Good Reasons To Use An AMA Travel Counselor
- Research assistance from an AMA travel counselor can be extremely helpful when planning your trip. They can ensure your holiday runs smoothly and that no detail is overlooked. Plus they know all sorts of options that can stretch your budget in ways you might never have imagined.
- Travel counselors have easy access to current information like: documentation details, destination information, travel and weather alerts, and airline schedule changes. They also provide information such as which countries require a visa and/or passport, immunizations and even international drivers permits.
- Experienced travel counselors can save you time and money. They can often get you the same deal you have researched or better in a third of the time.
- Your travel counselor understands and can recommend insurance coverage to protect you and your investment.With an AMA travel counselor you can avoid the uncertainties of booking online. They provide security in knowing you have someone trustworthy to turn to if you require assistance.
Before you go, learn about the political and cultural climate of your destination.
- When you book with AMA Travel, you are given travel advisories provided by International Travel Information Services Inc. (ITS). They offer valuable information on hundreds of cities, countries and destinations. Each advisory contains up to 30 different categories of information including local laws, customs, inoculations and travel warnings.
- For more information before you leave, visit www.amatravel.ca/TravelChecklist.
The only valid proof of your Canadian citizenship and identity that is accepted by all countries is your passport. When planning on travelling.
- Apply for a passport/visa as soon as you can, preferably three months in advance of your trip.
- Passports should be valid for six months past your return date to Canada.
- All travellers, regardless of age, must have their own passport.
1. Mcalpin, Anne. Travel Tips You Can Trust Heathrow: AAA publishing, 2002.
Don’t forget to protect the things you’ll be leaving behind: your home, your garage, your vehicle. Here are some steps you can take to prevent a thief from seeing your empty home as a perfect opportunity for a break-in:
- Keep a lock on your residential mail box.
- Cancel the newspaper and stop mail delivery.
- Have a friend or service take care of your yard.
- Use timers on interior lights.
- Do not leave a key hidden outside.
- Ensure your garage doors and windows are securely locked.
- Turn off the water valves outside and inside to prevent unintentional leaks or floods.
- If your vehicle will remain outside, have a friend move it to a different location every few days.
- Check your insurance policy to determine how often your property must be checked while you’re away.
- Store valuables (important documents, jewelry) in a safe place or bank security box.
Know Your Travel Insurance Needs
Provincial health insurance plans provide limited health-care coverage outside of your province. Without Emergency Medical Insurance, you could end up having to pay substantial medical bills out of your own pocket.
Here is vital information to help protect you — and your bank account — while you are on vacation:
- Alberta Health Care does not cover a number of services abroad including: services of a physician, ambulance rides, prescription drugs and surgical supplies. They require supplemental Emergency Medical Insurance.
- Travel Insurance packages provide comprehensive coverage for a wide variety of situations such as: cancellation, interruption, flight accident, travel accident, baggage and personal effects, plus more. These packages are usually more affordable than purchasing each type of coverage separately.
- Cancellation insurance must be bought within 48 hours of booking your trip. Other coverage can be bought any time before you leave.
- Some policies may not provide coverage for pre-existing health conditions; confirm this with your insurance provider.
- Your credit card may provide basic travel insurance, but ensure you read the fine print to understand any conditions and limitations in your coverage.
- Confirm whether your personal property insurance covers you for loss or theft while you’re vacationing, and understand your obligations around protecting your home.
- When AMA members book plane tickets with AMA Travel services they receive free travel accident insurance. Call or visit your nearest AMA centre for all of your travel insurance needs.
- In the case of end supplier failure (when a travel service company, including airlines, cruise or tour operators, goes out of business) there is little consistency in standards of consumer protection. Check that your credit card and/or trip cancellation insurance policies include end supplier failure coverage.
Know Your Luggage Allowance
Baggage allowances vary between airlines, ticket classes and destinations. Please refer to your airline ticket or website for exact baggage allowances and fees.
Travelling with Kids2
Travelling with children brings a unique set of challenges. There are a few simple ways you can ensure the safety of your children, and make your vacation stress-free:
- Give your children whistles to be used only if they need to signal for help.
- Teach your children to call out an agreed upon code word if they become lost or separated, such as a parent’s first name.
- Put one of your business cards in your child’s pocket to help authorities locate you.
- Designate a rendezvous spot in case the family gets separated BEFORE getting to your destination.
- Hold hands with family members when walking through crowds. Consider using a “safety leash” for toddlers.
- Never leave your kids alone; always accompany them to the washroom.
- Consider hotel room safety by taking a “kids-eye” view of the room to scan for potential hazards.
Airport Safety and Security
- Keep your bags and personal effects within reach at all times.
- Do not joke about having a bomb or a firearm. Do not discuss terrorism, weapons, explosives or other threats while going through the security checkpoint. Security personnel are trained to consider the slightest mention of these topics as a serious threat.
- Only ticketed passengers are allowed beyond the security checkpoint. Be prepared to show identification at the ticket counter, security checkpoint and before boarding a plane.
- Travellers aged 12 or older must be prepared to show one piece of valid government-issued photo iD (e.g. passport, driver’s licence or ID card from AMA registries).
Identity theft is an issue of rising concern in our society. Protect yourself from being vulnerable to this crime while you are on vacation. Take these simple precautions to protect your good name — and your bank account:
- Use a separate credit card with a LOW limit for vacations.
- Consider using a MasterCard Cash Passport™ — a combination credit/debit card that is as secure and replaceable as traveller’s cheques, yet not linked to your bank account. It is front-loaded with cash so you can withdraw money from bank machines, or use it like a credit card at locations that accept Visa.
- Leave your SIN card or birth certificate in a safe place at home.
- Never leave purses or wallets in your vehicle, even if they are hidden.
- Always keep your credit card in sight, even at a restaurant.
- Like you would at home, keep all receipts of credit card transactions during your holiday. Compare your receipts to your statement to identify any unauthorized purchases.
- Never carry PINs or other passwords with you.
- Whenever you enter your PIN, shield it by covering your hand.
- Change your PINs regularly. Never use obvious passwords like birth dates for PINs.
- Before entering bank or credit card account numbers into a cell phone, ensure it has encryption technology.
- Always take printed receipts from bank machines.
- Use covered luggage tags filled out with your business address to keep your personal information out of view.
2. AAA Traffic safety Department. “Safety Tips for Women.” California State Automobile Association. 15 July, 2008. http://www.co.shasta.ca.us/living/NationalsafetyMonth/safety_tips_for_women.pdf.
Be alert, be smart, blend in.
Here are some simple tips to help you protect yourself while you’re travelling:
Use Common Sense3
- Clean out your wallet before you leave; take only essential cards with you. Remember, showing your AMA card will get you discounts throughout the world.
- Do not carry large quantities of cash. Traveller’s cheques or a MasterCard Cash Passport™ provide security and can be replaced if lost or stolen.
- Wear a money belt under your clothes with valuable documents, traveller’s cheques and large quantities of cash; carry a purse or wallet with enough cash to meet your daily needs.
- Transfer money from your money belt to pockets or wallet in your hotel room or in a washroom.
- Keep your airline tickets in a secure location, separate from your original passport.
- Take business cards from your hotel to make it easier to tell a taxi driver where you are staying.
- Use only authorized hotel or airport taxis. Only travel in a taxi with a meter. Understand your total fare (metered, per person, flat rate) before you depart.
- Be cautious about people trying to divert your attention — this could be a scheme to steal your possessions.
Avoid Standing Out in a Crowd
- Avoid wearing expensive-looking jewelry and watches.
- Consider using a disposable camera.
- Dress to blend in, not to stand out.
- Look like you know where you are going, even when you don’t.
- Avoid viewing maps in busy public areas.
- Lock your valuables in your vehicle’s trunk before reaching your destination or secure in a hotel safe.
- Keep your camera stored in a tote bag instead of a camera bag.
- Leave a copy of official passports, airline tickets and traveller’s cheques with family or friends.
- If you carry your passport, secure it hidden in a money belt. Never leave it in your baggage, vehicle or unsecured in your hotel room.
- Be sure to carry a copy of your passport in your luggage, separate from your original passport.
- In some countries, you may have to surrender your passport to a government official or a hotel employee. Ensure it is returned to you in a timely manner.
- If your passport is lost or stolen, immediately report this to the local police and the nearest Canadian diplomatic or consular office.
- Try to get a room on the second floor or higher.
- If the desk clerk announces your suite number within earshot of others, consider requesting a new room.
- Request a room with an in-room safe. Unless you need them during the day, lock up your passport, airline ticket and other valuables in the safe.
- Verify that window and door locks are secure. Use available deadbolts and chains.
- Place valuables in a hotel safe and get a receipt. Check the hotel’s insurance liability limit.
- Be suspicious if a stranger offers to carry your luggage.
- Never open your door to a stranger; if they identify themselves as hotel staff, confirm with the front desk before letting them in.
- Do not place valuables on your balcony.
- Leave a radio or TV and a light on when you leave your room to give the appearance of an occupied room.
- Carry a doorstop to jam under the door or an adjoining door.
- Use the “Do Not Disturb” door hanger if your room has already been cleaned or to limit access.
- Know the locations of fire exits and extinguishers.
- Count the number of doors between your room and the nearest exit. In an emergency you may be forced to crawl on the floor in smoke and darkness, counting the doorways to the fire exit.
3. (a) CSA Travel Protection. “Free Security Tips.” Travel Insurance and Travel Assistance from CSA Travel Protection. 1997-2008. 2 July, 2008.
(b) Travel Tips & Articles. “Travel Abroad Worry-Free On Arrival.” AAA Wisconsin. 30 Apr. 2008. 3 July, 2008.
4. Passport Office. “Trip Planning.” Government of Canada. 20 July, 2007. 3 July, 2008.
5. Travel Tips & Articles. “Suggestions for Safe, Secure Lodging.” AAA Wisconsin. 30 Apr. 2008. 3 July, 2008.
Be a smart consumer. Know what’s included in the cost of airfare, including surcharges and taxes. The following is a summary of charges you’ll likely encounter when purchasing an airline ticket in North America. Note that international destinations may be subject to additional surcharges and taxes.
The breakdown on a trip from Edmonton to Halifax would look something like this*:
*Remember: Airfare, surcharges and taxes are always subject to change and these percentages may vary.